Lizzy doesn’t need to say much to get my attention. In fact, she’s mastered the fine art of whining at just the right pitch to get whatever she wants. It’s a gift.
And when she reaches those chubby, little arms up toward me, she doesn’t need to say anything at all. I know she wants to come up to Mama, for me to pick her up and hold her close.
As someone prone to obsessing over word choices (that whole English instructor thing), it comes as a shock to me that someone can accomplish so much with so few words.
Lizzy’s toddler eloquence shows me that words are of little consequence. God can get his message across with or without my witticisms.
Even though Jesus demonstrated that he was a skilled speaker, especially when it came to telling stories, his backwoods Galilee accent tainted his words for audiences outside the region. In The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey explains how God chose to have a rough accent, a speech style so bad that Jerusalem folks often wouldn’t let people from Galilee read Hebrew in the temple.
Imagine Jesus with the worst redneck southern accent you could imagine. And you begin to get the idea (apologies to my redneck southern readers, but at least you’re in good company).
Jesus’ humble speech patterns show us that the magic isn’t in the words alone but the Spirit of God that empowers them. If anything, it should encourage us, we who obsess over saying the right thing, in the right way, in the right moment. God used the worst accent he could find in Israel just to show us what he could do.
For me, this encourages my feeble efforts at sharing God’s love with others. I worry that in the moment where people need to hear wisdom from me, my eloquence will fail, and I won’t know what to say.
Jesus shows us that it doesn’t matter. Our words aren’t what change people. Saying things in the right way doesn’t make the difference. But God’s Spirit behind those words, that’s what heals hearts and ministers to broken souls.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words (I Corinthians 2:13 NIV).
It’s the Spirit behind the words.
When I’m feeling low, few things cheer me up like when Lizzy smiles and says, “happy,” to me. All the eloquence in the world wouldn’t have that same impact on me.
So, here I am, raising my chubby, toddler arms up to my Father in heaven.